Former PM criticised for ‘wasting time’ at Iraq inquiry

DEFIANT: Pauline Hickey and her husband Patrick on a previous meeting at Downing Street.
DEFIANT: Pauline Hickey and her husband Patrick on a previous meeting at Downing Street.

THE mother of an East Bierley soldier who was killed in Iraq has blasted Tony Blair for ‘wasting time’ fulfilling his own agenda at the latest round of the Chilcot Inquiry.

Pauline Hickey, whose son Christian was killed when a roadside bomb exploded while he was on foot patrol in Basra in 2005, criticised the former prime minister after he spoke at the inquiry last Friday.

Since her son’s death, the grieving anti-war campaigner has worked with groups such as Military Families Against the War to push for a public inquiry into the invasion of Iraq.

And Mr Blair’s appearance - the second since the inquiry began in late 2009 - had been eagerly anticipated.

Mrs Hickey, who was one of only 40 members of the public to get a seat when Mr Blair gave evidence last year, said: “True to form, Blair gave a well rehearsed polished performance, and had his own agenda and wasted a lot of the time allocated waffling on about what he wanted to talk about.”

Last year when Mr Blair was asked if he had any regrets about the war, he said that although he was sorry it had been divisive, he believed it was the right thing to remove Saddam Hussein.

This time however, he told the inquiry chairman: “At the conclusion of the last hearing, you asked me whether I had any regrets.

“I took that as a question about the decision to go to war, and I answered that I took responsibility.

“That was taken as my meaning that I had no regrets about the loss of life and that was never my meaning or my intention.

“I wanted to make it clear that, of course, I regret deeply and profoundly the loss of life, whether from our own armed forces, those of other nations, the civilians who helped people in Iraq or the Iraqis themselves.”

Mrs Hickey said: “I did find it interesting that he spoke about regretting the loss of lives this time.

“I would have liked to ask him that now he has acknowledged some regret would he now be brave enough to meet the families of the fallen and explain his stance to them. I doubt it as words are cheap, and this man is a coward.”